Category Archives: Transparency

Blockbuster: Ryan Solicited Urgent Meeting with Jones Prosecutor

by James A. Bacon

Three days before withholding a state-ordered report looking into a 2022 mass shooting at the University of Virginia that killed three students and wounded two, UVA officials set up a meeting with the prosecutor of the alleged killer, The Daily Progress reports.

In a statement issued November 17, 2023, President Jim Ryan and Rector Robert Hardie justified keeping the report’s findings secret by quoting the prosecutor, Albemarle County Commonwealth Attorney Jim Hingeley, as thanking the University for not complicating the prosecution of the accused.

“After conferring with counselors and Albemarle County Commonwealth’s Attorney Jim Hingeley, we have decided that we need to wait until after the criminal proceedings to release further information,” said Ryan and Hardie.

Left unsaid in the statement is the fact that Ryan initiated the meeting with Hingeley, using University Police Chief Tim Longo as an intermediary. Longo, who worked closely with Charlottesville and Albemarle County law enforcement authorities on safety issues affecting the university, made a logical go-between. Continue reading

Team Ryan Defends Closed Board Session

by James A. Bacon

University of Virginia officials have responded, albeit obliquely, to questions raised by the Jefferson Council about the legality of a closed session called during a Board of Visitors meeting March 1.

In a column posted in the “So Hoos Asking” feature of UVA Today, University spokesman Brian Coy walked readers through the basics of closed sessions under Virginia state law. In that piece, he cited the real-world example of the Board’s vote last month to go into closed session to discuss the safety of Jewish students on Grounds in the wake of allegations of antisemitism.

Coy’s description of the session reveals details not previously available to the public. I’m not entirely satisfied with his explanation, as I shall explain in due course, but even if I were, another issue arises: If the topic of the closed-session discussion was as narrowly focused as Coy says it was, it drives home the fact that Rector Robert Hardie and President Jim Ryan have shut down any discussion in open session of the larger questions of UVA’s hostile climate to Jews.

In the cause of promoting open and reasoned dialogue, we are duty-bound to inform our readers fully and fairly of the views of the Ryan administration. Here follows the full passage from Coy’s column. Continue reading

Why Can’t The University of Virginia Tell The Truth About Its $1 Billion DEI Plan?

University spokesperson Brian Coy misled national media about how much DEI was costing students and taxpayers. Why won’t UVA own its $1 billion plan?

by Adam Andrzejewski

“…a call for us to be the very best version of ourselves and to live our stated commitments to diversity, equity and inclusion to become a better university.”
Dr. James Ryan, President, University of Virginia, September 11, 2020

Recently, our auditors at found that the University of Virginia (UVA) employed 235 people in roles related to diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) costing taxpayers some $20 million for salaries and benefits last year.

Our report broke in the Washington Examiner and made national news. It hit multiple primetime shows on Fox News, the nightly news on the nearly 200 ABC, NBC, CBS, and Fox affiliates of Sinclair Broadcast Group, a retweet by Elon Musk, and a hearing by the U.S. House subcommittee on Education and the Workforce. Continue reading

Who Counts As a DEI Employee?

by James A. Bacon

Earlier this month Open the Books, an organization dedicated to government spending transparency, released a study concluding that the University of Virginia employs 235 people, including interns, in roles relating to Diversity, Equity & Inclusion at a payroll cost of roughly $20 million a year. Characterizing Open the Books’ numbers as “wildly inflated,” UVA officials disputed how the group counted someone as a DEI employee. Open the Books fired back yesterday with another broadside, defending its numbers and faulting UVA’s own claim that the University has only 55 DEI employees costing $5.8 million.

In June 2023, the Ryan administration presented numbers to the Board of Visitors that provided the following breakdown:

While Open the Books has been fully transparent, going so far as to publish a list of the employees, titles and salaries it is counting, UVA has not reciprocated with a list of its own. Continue reading

Did the Board of Visitors Illegally Meet in Closed Session?

by James A. Bacon

Last week the University of Virginia leadership dodged and weaved and did everything it could to suppress an open, wide-ranging discussion at the Board of Visitors meeting of how Jewish students are treated at UVA.

Most pointedly, Rector Robert Hardie called a “hard stop” on board member Bert Ellis’ bid to focus on how the administration was allowing Jewish students to be subjected to hostile and discriminatory treatment. Hardie declared that the points raised by Ellis fell under the rubric of “student safety issues,” which the Board would discuss in closed session.

Was “student safety” a legitimate reason to reject Ellis’ call for open debate about one of the most contentious set of issues to afflict UVA in years?

I’m not a legal expert in government transparency, but it looks to me like UVA violated state open-government law in calling the closed session. I’ll make that case below. But I would welcome feedback from anyone with an expertise in this area to guide the Jefferson Council as we ponder whether to escalate our criticism of what was — whether legal or illegal — a grotesque lack of transparency at an institution supposedly committed to open inquiry. Continue reading

Who’s Killing Higher-Ed Transparency in Virginia?

So much for transparency

by James A. Bacon

The previous post, “What Is UVA Hiding,” highlights the excessive use of the “working papers” exemption to prevent access to the UVA president’s documents, emails and texts under the Freedom of Information Act. I might have been unfair to UVA. The headline implies that UVA, or by extension its leadership, is guilty of overreach in the interpretation of state law.

It turns out that many other Virginia universities utilize the exemption. ProPublica and the Virginia Center for Investigative Journalism at WHRO spotlight in The Chronicle of Higher Education how they were thwarted in efforts to obtain documents shedding light on Christopher Newport University’s encroachments on adjoining neighborhoods.  Continue reading

Look What UVA Is Hiding

by James A. Bacon

Acting on behalf of The Jefferson Council, Walter Smith has filed a complaint in Henrico County against the University of Virginia, seeking a remedy for its refusal to supply documents under the Freedom of Information Act. Smith serves in a volunteer capacity as chair of the Council’s research committee.

The suit alleges 14 instances in which the University’s FOIA staff improperly denied emails and other documents to the Council. Smith’s FOIA requests asked for documents that would shed light on the inner workings of the University’s administrative decision-making process.

The cases highlighted in the complaint illustrate two main themes. First, UVA’s FOIA lawyers have stretched the presidential “working papers” exemption beyond its original intent of protecting the university president’s personal deliberations. Second, the lawyers did not apply privacy protections to Bert Ellis, a Board of Visitors member who was widely perceived as a threat to the university status quo.

“UVa’s FOIA process seems designed to delay and discourage and deny inquiries that may be embarrassing to the Ryan administration,” said Smith. “The administration says it’s all for open inquiry. These are matters of legitimate interest to the public. It seems hypocritical to hide so much.” Continue reading

Tuition as Engine of Wealth Redistribution

Source: State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV)

by James A. Bacon

When Congress adjusts the tax code to promote income redistribution between the rich and poor, a debate plays out in the national media. When universities adjust their tuition to promote income distribution, by contrast, the process is so shrouded in secrecy that the public has no idea it’s occurring.

That process is less invisible in Virginia than it once was, thanks to a Youngkin administration initiative to post the most comprehensive higher-ed data analysis ever compiled on the State Council for Higher Education in Virginia (SCHEV) website. But the data will sit there — as good as invisible — until someone looks at it. And even publicizing the data is next to worthless if key decision makers — university administrations, activist groups, Boards of Visitors — don’t use it to inform their discussions.

The report, compiled over a six-month process with guidance from the Boston Consulting Group, explores three broad themes: enrollment trends, labor market trends, and financial effectiveness & sustainability. SCHEV looks at industry-wide trends for Virginia’s system of public education as well as detailed breakdowns by institution.

There is an immense amount of data to explore, some of which that will prove familiar to readers of Bacon’s Rebellion and some of it not. For this post I am focusing on tuition as a tool for wealth redistribution because that is data we have never seen before. Continue reading

Will the Public Ever Get to See the Mass-Shooting Report?

Christopher Darnell Jones Jr.

by James A. Bacon

The University of Virginia will delay a release of an external investigation into the Nov. 13, 2022, mass shooting that resulted in three deaths and two woundings until after the trial of Christopher Jones, the UVa student charged with the crime.

“After conferring with counselors and Albemarle County Commonwealth’s Attorney Jim Hingeley, we have decided that we need to wait until after the criminal proceedings to release further information,” President James Ryan said in a statement appearing Friday on UVa Today. “Making the reports public at this time, or even releasing a summary of their findings and recommendations, could have an impact on the criminal trial of the accused, either by disrupting the case being prepared by the Albemarle County Commonwealth’s Attorney, or by interfering with the defendant’s right to a fair trial before an impartial jury.”

Rector Robert Hardie supported the delay. Speaking for the Board of Visitors, he said, “We agree that we should postpone the release of further information until the criminal prosecution is complete to avoid interfering with or complicating the proceedings.”

“This development is disappointing,” responded Tom Neale, president of the Jefferson Council. “The quintuple shooting is one of the most traumatic events to ever occur at UVa, and the university community has a right to know what went wrong. What assurance do we have that the actions the University has taken to improve safety actually address the problems identified in the report? How do we know a similar breakdown won’t occur again?” Continue reading

Info-Wars at UVa: Who Decides What the BoV Needs to Hear?

Provost Ian Baucom

by James A. Bacon

Last October University of Virginia Provost Ian Baucom briefed the Faculty Senate executive committee about a package of four multimillion-dollar academic initiatives that were in the works. The camera angle in the video recording shows him as a tiny, barely discernible figure at the far end of a long conference table. But his fast-clipped, staccato voice comes through loud and clear.

One initiative would address society’s “Grand Challenges” while another would build the university’s R&D infrastructure. Two others, largely geared to the pursuit of diversity, would set up a $20 million fund to aid the recruitment of graduate students and a $20 million fund to boost recruitment of “under-represented” faculty.

Members of the Faculty Senate were on board with the diversity programs, and Baucom felt at ease talking about them. “Behind [the faculty-recruitment initiative],” he said, “is the reaffirmation of the Audacious Futures Report to double the number of under-represented faculty. The president and I have been very clear that he stands by that goal.”

Four months later when the initiatives had moved further through the administrative pipeline, though, the Provost was less forthcoming with the Board of Visitors than he had been with the faculty. He described the Grand Challenges and R&D initiatives in considerable detail, but barely acknowledged the other two strategic priorities. He never explained that the faculty and graduate-student initiatives were designed in part to advance diversity.

The dichotomy in Baucom’s presentations raises important questions of governance at UVa. At a time when racial preferences in admissions and hiring are coming under increasing scrutiny, how much information about those practices is the Ryan administration withholding from the Board of Visitors? Who decides what to tell the Board? What power does the Board have to demand a fuller accounting? Continue reading